Is Glue Made from Horses? Truth about Horse Glue

Do you know horses are killed to make glue?

It’s okay if this question got you goosebumps.

Yes, it’s true not only horses but several other animals are brutally murdered to make glue.

Even if you don’t know that horses are used to make glue but you have at least heard that the horse is useless so it is going to the glue factory. I’m pretty sure you have heard it somewhere and it has made you curious for a few seconds and then you might have forgotten as if you have never heard anything like that. 

So here is quick answer

Is Glue Made from horses? Yes, Glue made from horse parts like hooves and bones. These parts are rich in collagen which is the main component of Animal glue. This glue is sticky in wet form and very hard when dried.Horses used for thousands of years but still some misconceptions about the production of glue need to be solved.

The practice of deriving glue from horses is several thousand years old and no one really knows how exactly old it is. But this cruelty was recorded in the books in 2000 BC for the first time. 

The superiority is given to the animal glue over the regular glue as it is used in the wood furnishing and mural paintings etc. 

How did it all start?

It started with a simple thought ” Why do my hands get sticky every time I use my hands to eat meat?” As per a research, it was found that the hands get sticky because of the release of glue. So, the “human nature” got curious and they started experimenting and this led to the foundation of animal glue.

At first, it wasn’t officially recognized but as the glue started gaining a reputation the first horse glue manufacturing industry was established back in 1700. And then the United States of America decided to follow the trend by opening a glue factory in 1899. 

How is glue made from horses?

The glue making process is fairly simple as it is made by boiling the animal hide, hooves, bones, and tendons. Bones, tendons, and skin releases collagen, a substance that when cooked turns into glue.

Is glue still made from horses?

Yes, but on a small scale or not as much as it was being made before the arrival of other adhesives.

The demand for animal glue by professional craftsmen, designers, and manufacturers has kept it alive. 

Even though the synthetic glue has taken over but the animal glue is still holding on. How?

No doubt, synthetic glue has reduced the use of animal glue but it has failed to remove it from the map of the world as it is cheap and natural.

Why is glue made from horses?

Horses are large muscled animals and contain a large amount of gluey substance called collagen. This is the reason why we keep hearing that the horse is being sent to the glue factory.

Is this glue making process limited to horses only?

No, Not just horses but cattle, fishes, and pigs are also used to make glue but the horses have always been an ideal option. Since the glue is mostly made from the horses that’s why we keep hearing their name otherwise cattle and pigs get the same treatment to make the glue.

Can dead horses be used to make glue?

Yes, for this particular purpose the dead horses are as in demand as the alive ones. They do not necessarily have to be murdered to turn into the glue, even a dead horse that is of no use is useful.

What’s the use of horse glue these days?

Horse glue was used to pretty much fix everything but the invention of chemical-based glues abandoned it to few things. Unfortunately, it is now only used to fix broken furniture and stringed musical instruments.

How long does the horsehide glue last?

Not only horse glue but in fact, animal glues are known for their longevity. Almost all these(horse glue, fish glue, rabbit-skin glue) eco-friendly glues are good to be used for at least 18 months and it is a reasonable amount of time. When even the popular synthetic glues have failed to serve more than twelve years.

If you have never come across horse glue this is what you need to know

Horse Glue Facts

There are a few things you need to know if you have never seen horse glue in your life.

  • Horse glue gets transparent as it dries off

Unlike chemical-based glues, the horse glue is transparent when it is completely dried. This is the reason why it is popular as a “clear cure” locally.

  • It is strong and long-lasting

It sounds less promising as it doesn’t contain any chemical but if it wouldn’t have been this durable and strong why would it be used to fix broken pieces of furniture anyway?

  • Glued parts can be taken apart

Even if it is strong, glued parts can still be taken apart as heat and humidity soften it. 120F heat and 75%RH humidity is an ideal environment to melt the glue.

  • It has other names as well

The horse glue is called by different names that are:

  • Hide glue
  • Animal glue
  • Bone glue

This glue is more popular with the name “hide glue” than the horse glue as this name alarms the user. Or maybe we call it to hide glue because it blurs the process of its creation.

  • It makes a firm joint

Once the glue has stuck the parts together there is no point it loses its grip.  

  • It has a strong unpleasant odor

The only thing that you may find disturbing, except the frequent appearing thought that a horse is murdered for this, is that it has a strong unpleasant smell. Since animal glues are eco-friendly the smell can be different but it will definitely be bad enough to call it displeasing.

Types of horsehide glue

Continuous experiments and improvements divide the hide glue into two types:

  • Liquid glue.
  • Hot glue.

Now let’s discuss the types in detail:

Liquid glue

The easier to use glue is in the  “ready to use the package”. It does not require any tool or a recipe to follow as it is already in the shape it is used. 

Hot glue

Hot glue is a little different from the liquid glue. Hot glues are heated or sometimes mixed with boiling water to bring it to ready-to-use form. But this is the least desired form of horse glue as the risk of bacterial and fungal growth makes it sound like a waste of money. But this threat can be avoided to some extent if we keep the leftovers in the refrigerator. 

horse glue

What is this Elmer’s glue? And is Elmer glue made from horses?

Elmer’s glue is a popular American glue being used in schools and offices nowadays. The traditional Elmer’s glue did contain animal content but the glue that is being sold in the markets today is nothing but a combination of chemicals. So, it would not be false to say that it is not a horse glue.

You can make your own horse glue if it’s easy for you to arrange the ingredients

How to Make Horse Glue Yourself

If the ingredients are readily available you can try making your own glue. As the bones and the tendons are hard to find but the skin is not so let’s try it with the skin only. The process is fairly simple to have a look:

  • Trim the non desired parts(hair or meat particles) and cut it into the smaller pieces as small as you can.
  • Find the most hated pot you have in the kitchen as it is going to ruin the plot.
  • Fill the pot with water and throw the pieces into it. 
  • Put the pot on the stove and turn it on.
  • Let it boil and then bring the heat down to a simmer.
  • It’s done when the mixture brings the translucent color out. Strain the hide particles and return it to the stove.
  • Cook it to the point until the last drop of water.
  • The presence of water may make the glue lose its stickiness. To check whether it’s done or not, put it on your finger, place your thumb on it and see if it sticks to it or not.

If it looks somewhat rubbery at this point, know that you are successful in creating a masterpiece for yourself.

  • Take a cheesecloth and strain it again in a flat container.
  • Once it is settled, break it into the smaller pieces using a kitchen knife. 
  • Store it in places that do not receive direct sunlight. Keep breaking the piece every day until the crumbles dry off completely.
  • There, your job is done, store it in an airtight container. 

But make sure you have a scented candle or something as the mixture starts boiling it produces a very strong unpleasant smell so scented candles and room fresheners would be a great help. 

How is horsehide glue made in the factories?

As the factories are making the commercial-grade glue on a large scale so they follow a different procedure.

The skin is first soaked in the lime for 60 days at least. Then to extract collagen it is washed by boiling in the water. The extracted collagen is concentrated and converted into the noodles form then it is sent for milling and the rest of the process is performed there.

Pros and cons of horse glue

It is always better to look at the brightest side of the picture so let’s discuss the pros first.

Pros

  • It is biodegradable in nature.
  • 100% nontoxic.
  • All-natural, no artificial flavor added.
  • As effective as the chemical-based glues.
  • Reversibility.
  • Less likely to creep under heavy load.

Cons

  • Strong unpleasant smell.
  • Less useful for non-polar based substrates.
  • Bacterial and fungal growth threat.
  • It is difficult to use.
  • Short open time

We have discussed almost everything about the horse glue in detail but the discussion without comparing it with the synthetic glue is still incomplete so let’s discuss it too.

Horse glue vs. Synthetic or chemical-based glue

Horse glueSynthetic glue
Mainly skin, bones, and tendons Binders, curing agents, thinner, and fillers
Furniture, musical instruments, paintings, illuminated parchment manuscripts mainly.It is widely being used in almost all glue requiring activities.
It can be used for 18 months.Synthetic glues are different and it loses its usability in 12 months.

Horse glue and animal glue is not the same thing

Horse glue and the animal glue are two different things. Animal glue could be glue either made from pig or cattle or even from a fish. So do not get confused between the horse and animal glue.

The reason why it has started vanishing

As the glue requirements increased with the time the unavailability of fresh raw material led the makers to wonder and that’s how they found the cheap alternatives. As the cheap alternatives were readily available and the fresh raw material(Bones, teeth, skin, tendons) is impossible to store and then the synthetic glue is doing a pretty good job so it got expensive and started disappearing silently from the world’s map.

Drawbacks of using horsehide glue

No doubt horse glue has the tendency to put the broken pieces together as if they were never broken but the drawbacks of this product cannot be neglected either.

It gets shrunk and darker with time, further climate change, humidity is also the biggest threat to your glued furniture and artwork. So, it is more of a problem than a solution in such conditions.

What you need to know before using horse glue for the first time

If you can find a ready-made horse glue or could arrange the ingredients to make you own this is what you need to know.

Horsehide glue is an excellent solution for broken glasses

Horsehide glue is a popular glass mender for it’s shrinking ability. It hardens and shrinks, bringing the shattered piece closer that even the evidence of its brokenness disappears. Glass artists are also still a fan of animal glue as it has helped in creating many masterpieces.

It’s useless when it’s cold

A warm water bath is needed to turn the glue into magic as it can only be applied when it is hot.

Have a brush or spatula with you

As mentioned above it works only when it is hot so it can only be applied with a brush or spatula. Running for a brush or spatula when the glue is in ready to use mode is an unpleasant situation after all.

Store it in the places that do not receive sunlight

Sunlight is a strength killer not just for horsehide but for other glues as well. A freezer is the most recommended place to keep the glue but if it is not available keeping it in the basement will also prevent it from losing its strength.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How are horses turned into glue?

Horses are taken to the glue factory. The parts(bones, tendons, skin, etc) that produce the substance called collagen are boiled to make the glue.

Why are horses used for glue?

This large muscular animal has the tendency to produce collagen more than any other animal; this is the reason why horses are preferred to make glue.

Is Elmer’s glue an animal glue?

Elmer’s glue was an animal glue back in history but in today’s world, it is nothing but a combination of chemicals. Because of its previous formulation, it is still misunderstood as an animal glue even though they have changed the ingredients several years ago.

Can you make horse glue on your own?

Yes, of course, you can make it on your own. It may not or may turn out a little weaker than the glue made in the factory but it will still be strong enough to do the job for you. Boiling the ingredients at a certain temperature leaves the glue in the pot. So, if it is too expensive for you to buy then make your own DIY version.

Is horse glue still popular?

Its use has been reduced but not stopped. It is not popular for office and regular school projects but for glass artists and Carpenters it is still as precious as Diamonds.

Do horses get murdered for glue?

Yes, the horses that are old and useless are murdered to turn into glue. A horse that has just died can also be purchased for this purpose but killing to turn into glue is more common.

Is there a way to get rid of unpleasant horse glue odor?

Of course, every disease has a cure. Rubbing a vinegar-soaked cotton pad and then rinsing it off with mild soap will help you get rid of this problem.

Is the school glue made from horses?

No, the school glue we find in the market is not made from horses. And in fact, All white glues are synthetic glues. There could be some animal extracts but it’s rare.

Why is horse glue expensive?

Horse glue is expensive either the ingredients are hard to find or a horse is being killed and then how can this be sold for a few bucks?

If horse glue is the strongest and purest glue then how did the synthetic glue took its place?

No doubt, horse glue is strong and handy but it is expensive and takes a lifetime to develop. And saying synthetic glue, being a terrible choice is also a lie then it becomes clear how the synthetic glue makes its place in this ever-changing world.

Caution

Frequent heating or overheating makes it completely useless. The glue that has been heated at least four times loses its stickiness. This is the reason why it is advised to take all the precautions seriously when it comes to using horse or animal glue.

Glue and horse facts

  • Horse glue in fact all hide glues have some sort of fats whether you make your own or you buy the expensive ready-made glue.
  • All hide glues make a stronger bond with natural fibers.
  • Even though it is considered a permanent solution but still moisture, steam, and heat can undo the action performed.
  • Horses are murdered and cooked to make glue.
  • Hide glues have better cohesive strength than the bone ones.
  • The first-ever horse glue manufacturing industry was opened in Holland in 1700.
  • Horse glue was a popular stationery item till the 18th century.
  • Horses are preferred to make glue, this is the reason why animal glue is widely termed as horse glue.
  • Elmer’s glue is misunderstood as horse glue but in reality, it is a combination of chemicals.
  • The bookbinders use horse glue.
  • Cartilage, tendons, and ligaments make excellent quality horse glue.
  • The tensile strength of horsehide glue is generally up to 39 megapascals.
  • Horse glue the purest adhesive humans have ever used.
  • Horse glue factories are not that cruel and they do try to avoid killing a horse sometimes the hide from the slaughterhouse is also picked up to make glue.
  • Dead horses are as useful for glue factories if they are handed over to them at the right time.
  • Is horse glue ideal for you?

Horse glue though expensive but it is ideal for you 

  • if you have something really important to fix. 
  • If you are a glass artist.
  • If you have books to bind.
  • If you are working with woods.
  • If your stringed musical instrument needs some fixing to do.
  • If you are okay with the fact a horse is murdered to serve you.
  • If you want to keep the ” undoing” options open.
  • If you do not want your mended parts to fall apart.
  • If you like going eco-friendly.
  • If you have no problem with paying a high price for a product that is not even that popular.

Conclusion

The answer to the question,” is glue made from horses?”, is yes horse glue is made from horses. Skin, tendons, and bones are used to make the strongest and longest-lasting glue and this has been in practice for the longest time even though history has lost count. Cattle and pigs are also used to make glue but horse are preferred as they produce collagen in large amounts. The invention of synthetic glues has reduced the production and consumption of horse glue but for furniture, glass, and musical instruments it is still the only option.

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